Piece: Mona Lisa
Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci
About: The most iconic of them all. It’s disappointing that the Louvre’s security won’t let you within ten metres of it. Da Vinci carried the canvas around with him for most of his life. To create her knowing smile and following eyes, he employed a forgotten technique called sfumato – the blurring of the edges of the mouth and the corners of her eyes. The blur gives no fixed point for the viewer, and so the smile seems elusive and the eyes seem to follow you wherever you go. Amazing.
Piece: Venus De Milo
About: The Venus De Milo isn’t just admired for its beauty, but also its imperfection. With broken arms and a missing plinth, it somehow seems complete than it was when it was created. In fact, artist recreations of its original form seem to prove that less is more. The missing arms were actually found in fragments at her excavation, but were discarded later by the French for having a rougher appearance. The plinth (featuring Alexandros’ name) on which she stood was also discarded – an embarrassment to those who had paid for the statue on the presumption it had been created by Praxiteles.